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Ireland, Spain and Norway say they will recognize a Palestinian state

Originally Published: 22 MAY 24 04:20 ET

Updated: 22 MAY 24 08:28 ET

By Sophie Jeong, Zahid Mahmood, Al Goodman, Niamh Kennedy and Sana Noor Haq, CNN

(CNN) — Ireland, Spain and Norway have announced plans to formally recognize a Palestinian state next week, in a move that is likely to bolster the global Palestinian cause but further strain relations between Europe and Israel.

The three European nations say their landmark decision is the best way to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East, but it sparked swift condemnation from Israel, as its foreign minister ordered the immediate recall of its ambassadors from those countries.

Most of the world already recognizes Palestinian statehood. More than 140 out of 193 member states of the United Nations have made their recognition official. But only some nations in the 27-member European Union are among them.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris told a Wednesday news conference in Dublin: “Today, Ireland, Norway and Spain are announcing that we recognize the state of Palestine. Each of us will now undertake whatever national steps are necessary to give effect to that decision.”

The recognition will come into force in all three countries on May 28, Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said that a Palestinian state was “a prerequisite for achieving peace in the Middle East.”

“There will be no peace in the Middle East without a two-state solution,” Støre said in a statement. “There can be no two-state solution without a Palestinian state.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez sought to characterize the decision as one that was not anti-Israel.

“This recognition is not against the people of Israel and certainly not against the Jewish people,” he said. “It’s not in favor of Hamas. It’s in favor of co-existence.”

The announcement was welcomed by Palestinian officials.

“This step reflects Spain’s keenness to support the Palestinian people and their inalienable and legitimate rights to their land and homeland,” the office of the president of the Palestinian Authority said in response to Madrid’s decision, as reported by Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Hamas, the militant group which governs Gaza, urged other countries to follow suit and “recognize our legitimate national rights, support the struggle of our people for liberation and independence, and end the Zionist occupation of our land.”

As Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz ordered the immediate recall of its ambassadors to Spain, Norway and Ireland, he said, in a statement: “I am sending a clear message today — Israel will not hold back against those who undermine its sovereignty and endanger its security.”

“After the terrorist organization Hamas carried out the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, after it committed the most horrific sex crimes the world has seen, these countries chose to give a reward to Hamas and Iran and recognize a Palestinian state,” Katz added.

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza on October 7 after militants led by Hamas killed at least 1,200 people and abducted more than 250 others.

Israel has also come under fierce criticism for its war. Earlier this month, a panel of independent UN experts condemned “the continued and systematic onslaught of violence committed against Palestinians in Gaza.” The agency has repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages taken by Hamas.

Israeli attacks in Gaza have since killed at least 35,647 Palestinians and injured another 79,852 people, according to the Ministry of Health there. CNN cannot independently confirm the figures.

Two-state solution

All three European leaders stressed the importance of having Palestinian statehood in reaching a two-state solution in the Middle East, a decades-long goal that the international community has failed to achieve.

Senior officials in the United States, a close ally of Israel, have insisted the only way to bring peace and stability to the region is through the creation of a Palestinian state with guarantees for Israel’s security. Lawmakers in Israel have long rejected those calls.

Ireland has a long history of being openly supportive of the Palestinian cause, consistently criticizing Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza before Hamas’ October 7 attack in Israel. Since then, Israel’s war in response has shredded huge parts of the Gaza Strip and drained critical supplies, exposing the entire population of more than 2.2 million people to the risk of famine.

Israel captured Gaza from Egypt in the 1967 war, then withdrew its troops and settlers in 2005. The territory, home to some 2 million Palestinians, fell under Hamas’ rule in 2007.

After Hamas took control, Israel and Egypt imposed a strict siege on the territory, which is ongoing. Israel also maintains an air and naval blockade on Gaza. These severe restrictions have been fiercely criticized by international bodies, including Amnesty International, who say Israel has violated international law.

The vast majority of the population in Gaza are descendants of 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forcibly expelled from their homes during what Palestinians call al-Nakba, or “the catastrophe,” of the 1948-49 war, in what is now Israel.

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